Review of “A Child’s History of the World”

The history textbook A Child’s History of the World by V.M. Hillyer (pp. 432) was originally written almost 100 years ago. Since then it has been revised and expanded by several other authors. This review is based on the 2014 edition of the text.

The Summary

This textbook is a survey of world history written at the comprehension level of a child. With most surveys, the text covers a little bit everything. Examples of topics in the book include Egyptian, Jewish, Greek, Roman, African, British civilizations and even the rise of the US and USSR. Naturally, many of the major wars of the past 5,000 years are covered as well.

Famous characters from history who are discussed in the book range from Alexander the Great to Jesus Christ as well as Emperor Constantine and even Richard Wagner the famous German composer of the 19th century.

The Good 

For a child’s book, there is a surprising amount of detail. For example, the book explains about  Zoroastrianism, which was the religion of the Medo-Persian empire. How many students today are familiar with such a topic?  In addition, the text is really written in an easy to read format.

The chapters are short, which is critical for young readers. There is also support with pronouncing various words that may be unusual to a western student.  There are also some illustrations throughout the book

The Bad

Given its age (almost 100) the pedagogical approach of the book is outdated. It’s heavy on text and light on illustrations Furthermore, the book lacks any sort of learning tools common in today’s textbooks such as inserts, vocabulary words, questions, discussion items, etc. It is literally just text.

At the time that it was written this text could probably be read by a small child. Today, however, the writing style would probably be more appropriate for high school as in-depth reading is not as common as it once was. With so much text it is almost impossible to read this to a class. My students became extremely bored and antsy when I attempted this even though a chapter is only three pages in length at times. I had to scrape reading it aloud and try another way to teach historical concepts. As such both, whole-class an individual reading of this text is difficult because peoples’ habits have change since the Depression.

The Recommendation

I would give this book 1.5/5 stars. It needs significant pedagogical support in order to be effective in the 21st-century classroom. The teacher would need to prepare support materials in order to help students with understanding the text. All textbooks require scaffolding support from the teacher but this book requires an extraordinary amount of help to provide learning experiences.

However, this book could be useful as a resource for a teacher who needs additional knowledge to teach history to children. In addition, if a regular textbook is already in use then A Child’s History of the World could serve as supplementary material that would allow the class to go deeper on a particular topic. The days of this text being the main source on history for children are probably over.

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